First Time Jeep Owner
Owning a Jeep Wrangler and driving it into the wilderness is an exciting experience; an experience people take very seriously. And why wouldn't they? You can have an adventure and get the adrenaline rush you need. All while doing it in style with confidence.
What makes the incredible Jeep more interesting is the fact that you can customize them with modifications. While some mods are complex, others are simple and don't require much time and money.
Jeep owners used to build all of their custom mods. Now days new jeep owners buy them as everyday drivers. Nothing wrong with that at all, but most will install mods for looks or Jeep's stance.
I myself like to build a good looking Jeep, however, most of my mods are for upgrades in performance and protection.
I challenge you to learn what you need and want before you waste money on mods you'll never need or sale cheaper later.
Best Jeep Wrangler
Choosing your new Jeep can seem overwhelming and tough. Do you buy new or used?
The new ones have all the bells and whistles. They can have all the problems too. Don't get me wrong, they all have their individual quirks. I tend to go for the least complicated version as there is less to break.
Your best Jeep will undoubtedly be different than mine. I use mine as a do all, go all and be all. I like to travel off-road more than anything with the occasional jaunt to Old Town Fort Collins for a dinner and a beer.
You may use yours to commute to work and like most new Jeep owners, weekend warrior that bad boy on a back country trail. That's is the beauty of the Jeep.
There are so many different mods to make your "Best Jeep Wrangler." If you're new to Jeeping, then start off with the smaller mods until you figure out your Jeep's journey. Once you have an idea of where you and your Jeep are going, then start adding mods as you can afford them and learn that you need them.
Warning! A Jeep is never finished. It can and will always be improved.
My favorite model is the 1997-2006 TJ to include the unlimited. Just saying.
Hood flutter is a common problem in Wranglers, especially when you drive fast. The stock hood latches installed at the factory aren't the sturdiest and move unnecessarily. They're not built like the old CJs of yesteryear.
Furthermore, factory-installed hood latches are made of soft and stretchy rubber that leaves a lot of room for the hood to move. Watching the hood flutter can be distracting when you're trying to concentrate on the path.
Aftermarket hood latches are heavy-duty options that keep your hood in place when you drive with a heavy foot.
Replacing stock lights is easier than it seems. All you need is a Torx bit or screwdriver used to unhook clips. Most Jeep Wranglers have halogen lights. You can replace with with LED headlights for more range and brightness. Furthermore, LED headlights are more efficient and last 30 times longer than halogen counterparts.
Fog lights are also crucial for a Jeep Wrangler. Fogs are small, but they improve visibility on the road, especially in hazy conditions.
If you are frequently on the trail at night, you must invest in off-road lighting. Besides their utility, off-road lighting also provide a more aggressive look to your Jeep. There are some common examples of off-roading lights, cube, LED light bars, and rock lights.
However, before installing off-road lights, you must check local laws regarding light bars. In some location, you might have to cover them up with a soft bar cover if you're driving in the city.
It is annoying to find dirt, grass, and mud on your Jeep Wrangler's interior. It is messy, difficult to clean, and steals the beauty of your vehicle's interior. To save time and energy, invest in floor liners. They keep your interiors clean, and they are designed to fit overstock and aftermarket carpets. Here are some common types of floor liners.
Rubberized Slush Floor Liners
Rubberized slush floor liners have grooves across their surface. They protect against moisture from mud or snow.
Trail Tough Floor Liners
Trail tough floor liners are heavy-duty and protect against anything tracked into your Jeep. These liners are made of polyethylene and have tread patterns similar to those on a tire. Moreover, they have raised edges that add an extra protective layer against whatever you track inside.
All-Weather Heavy Duty Liners
All-weather heavy-duty floor liners have a curved outer edge design, combined with a thermoplastic or stain-resistant carpeted base. They protect Jeep carpets against mud, dirt, and grass, and they are easy to clean.
Stain-Resistant Carpeted Floor Liners
As the name suggests, stain-resistant carpeted floor liners protect against spills and other things that can damage Jeep interiors.
Spray-In Tub Liner
My favorite mod is to yard the carpet out and just go to town with a complete spray on tub liner. It can be done relatively cheap and will last for years. My wife disagrees, but hey, it's not the first time.
Tires and Wheels
Tires and wheels are one of the most common Jeep Wrangler modifications. New tires enhance the look, and they also improve the ride quality, handling, and driving experience off road. There are various options if you choose to upgrade your Jeep Wrangler tires.
You must invest in off-roading tires for better traction and protection if leaving the black top. Off-roading tires are bigger than factory tires, and offer better clearance. You may have to make suspension adjustments for off-roading tires and invest in new fender flares.
When you choose to install bigger and wider tires, make sure you install wheels with the proper offset that provides the clearance needed for wider tires. Interestingly, they widen the Jeep Wrangler's track width, thus providing better cornering and aggressive stance.
Wheel spacers can help offset correction while eliminating wheel fitment problems with stock wheels. Wheel spacers are cost-effective, and with the proper installation, they are safe. Make sure not to install ones with a smaller thread.
When you go bigger, you'll need a bigger wallet. The fuel economy will go down in a hurry the higher your Jeep rides. If you go extreme as I do, you'll need suspension, gearing, breaking and driveline mods. Adds up pretty quick.
The lift kit is a necessary modification for several reasons. It provides better clearance, a good departure and approach angle. With a lift, you can drive on rocks or sand with a lot of confidence that your body will be further from damaging terrain. It provides enhanced articulation, which leads to better traction and stability on the trail.
Lift kits offer a lot of room if you are adding larger tires. Installing a lift kit may seem a little complicated, but you can do it in a day. A lift kit comprises shocks, springs, linkage and mounting hardware.
Lifts come in small sizes of 2 inch, 3-4 inches and 6 inches and up. I generally like to piece meal the best parts to build the best suspension I can with the limited skills and money I have.
Despite their cost, they are worth the money. This is only true if you intend to use it to the fullest.
Climbing into a Jeep Wrangler isn't easy, especially when you have a lift kit. A grab handle allows you to pull yourself into a Jeep Wrangler. While jumping into a rig might not be an issue for you, but it may come in handy for small children and older adults who need a little more support.
Most grab handles have a nylon or foam grip around them. They are affordable, and they come in various colors and designs. You can use accent color grab handles to complement your Jeep Wrangler's interior. Grab handles are easy to install, and they can also be attached to the roll bar via Velcro.
Entry guards are mounted on the lower door sill, right where you step into your Jeep Wrangler. Entry guards protect your door frames against scuffs and other wear and tear. Entry guards are affordable and easy to install. Furthermore, they can be attached using a 3M grip. It means that you won't have to drill anything.
Entry guards are commonly made of plastic or stainless steel. Besides protecting the door frame, entry guards also give an armored appearance to a Jeep Wrangler.
Seat covers are quick and easy to install, providing protection and comfort. They protect against dirt, mud and debris. Covers also come in handy when you have a dog, little kids, or a messy friend.
Seat covers might be costly, but they keep you from investing in upholstery more frequently than you need to. If you have leather seats, seat covers are a must for maintenance. There are different types of seat covers available.
However, Neoprene seat covers are the sturdiest. Neoprene seat covers are made of the same water-resistant material used in wetsuits. If you have a limited budget, you can get cloth seat covers. Some seat covers have cargo compartments for extra storage.
Soft Top & Hard Top
It is a tough decision for a first time Jeep owner to choose whether to invest in a soft top or not. Often used with Jeeps, soft tops allow you to enjoy a summer evening by pulling the top down. The windows in a soft top can be zipped open and closed quickly.
On the flip side, a hard top has benefits too. They provide better security and offer a quiet and peaceful drive. A hard top is durable but they will chalk overtime in direct sunlight. Keeping you Jeep covered will protect it.
Installing a soft top is quick and straightforward. Soft tops are available in various shapes, sizes and price ranges.
However, soft tops tend to fade when parked under the sun's rays. They can also get torn by tree branches and falling debris. When parking a Jeep with a soft-top outside, make sure to cover the Jeep with an SUV cover.
It's cheaper to buy a Jeep with a hardtop and hard doors and add the soft top later. I will admit that it has become harder to find half doors versus the hard doors.
Swapping out the front and rear bumpers is a common Jeep Wrangler modification. Aftermarket Jeep bumpers are durable, and they provide strength, protection and style. You can either choose a full-width bumper to cover the front end or short bumpers placed in the center.
Unlike stock Jeep bumpers, aftermarket bumpers are made of sturdier materials. You can also opt for a winch-capable bumper if you add a winch. Most bumpers have built-in lights or mounts that allow you to add off-road lights. Some bumpers have recovery points and D rings that make recovery simple.
Rear bumpers come in various widths as the front bumpers. Some can be purchased with a tire carrier and extra storage hangers for fuel cans. Most will have D-rings and some will have a notch in the top to clear oversized tires.
DIY Jeep Bumpers
My favorite option, which may be a little difficult on a first time Jeep owner, is to build custom bumpers. This is the best option for me as, I get what I want and not what I don't want. Most can be built out of 3/16" inch steel as long as it's structurally gusseted and supported.
There are a lot of fabricator sites that sell builder parts that can be used to build your bumper.
I'll write a future post on how I build my bumpers.
A Versa Hitch makes for an awesome Jeep Wrangler modification. Most Jeep Wrangler owners dream of adding a rear cargo rack when leaving for a big trip. Some also like to latch a bike to the back of their Jeep.
The factory hitches that come installed in the Jeep Wrangler can get the job done, but they aren't too effective. However, unfortunately, your Jeep will lose its towing ability with cargo or a bike attached to the backside. A Versa Hitch comes in handy in such situations.
A Versa Hitch has a 2-inch receiver hitch and two 1.5-inch receiver tubes. With one installed in your Jeep Wrangler, you can add extra accessories without compromising your towing ability.
An aftermarket exhaust system is an effective alternative to large and bulky factory mufflers. Moreover, aftermarket exhausts are much less restrictive. The mandrel-bent exhaust piping exhales fumes quickly and smoothly.
Most aftermarket exhaust systems are made of sturdy materials like stainless steel, aluminized steel, and high-temperature black powder-coated steel. A sound exhaust system increases torque and horsepower when combined with other modifications.
It vents the engine heat, minimizing engine strain. Reduced pressure on the vehicle's engine adds to its lifespan. Some standard exhaust systems include Axle-Back Exhausts and Cat-Back Exhausts.
Snorkels are valuable modifications that add to the air intake of your Jeep's engine. Jeepers use snorkels for two reasons. First of all, they make the machine less prone to water ingestion. Secondly, a snorkel allows the engine to receive cooler and drier air, with a ram air effect.
However, before adding a snorkel to your Jeep, make sure to determine your Jeep's water-wading height. There are various kinds of snorkels, with each of them having a different style, mounting position and quality.
Remember that water can still get into the gearbox and cabin, thus damaging the electronics. To prevent water from entering, silicone the snorkel connections and apply dielectric grease to the connectors. If you drive in water frequently, change the gearbox and fluids regularly.
I like to run all of my breathers for the axles and gear boxes as high as I possibly can. When I start building "Operation Go Green", I plan to build a snorkel out of exhaust tube and have it selectable so my Jeep isn't always having to breath through a straw. I'll do a future post and video on it.
While a new and used Jeep Wrangler Rubicon comes with differential lockers, most Jeep models don't. Aftermarket lockers are worth the investment, as they make the wheels rotate identical to one another with out slip.
They provide better traction in low-traction circumstances. There are a ton of aftermarket lockers. There are lunchbox lockers, soft lockers, spools and even welded backyard lockers.
Some lockers are activated by gear, electric, air, and cable.
You can also invest in an air locker system. The same air system used for the lockers can also inflate your tires whenever needed after off-roading. ARB is the main one that comes to mind and the ones I prefer.
Interior Security and Storage
You must have noticed that a Jeep's cargo capacity and security aren't satisfactory. The latest 4 door Jeep Wranglers that provide more accommodation, yet people have trouble finding the room they are looking for.
Whether you have a soft-top or you want to remove the hardtop for a short while, you will be worried about the security of your stuff. The original consoles don't have locks. This is why you need to install 16-gauge lockable consoles.
These consoles can be installed between the front seats, under the back seats, in overhead compartments, and the cargo area in the back. Locking consoles provide ample storage space and extra security for your goods.
Hell, a locked ammo can bolted on the wheel wells is better than nothing. I've seen all kinds of home built Jeep storage ideas. Use your imagination and start building.
Storage comes in handy for storing tools. You first timers will need tools. You will eventually break something and you'll need tools to survive the trail.
Contrary to popular belief, grille inserts are painted or custom-made and give your Jeep an aggressive and rugged look, and they are easy to install. All you have to do is open the hood, remove the connectors, and slide in the grille insert.
Grille inserts are also cheaper than brand new radiators or repairs from rocks and other debris, while providing an aesthetic appeal to your Jeep Wrangler. I really like the rustic flag insert.
The Final Word
There are endless ways to make your "Best Jeep Wrangler" look amazing and perform to the best of its capabilities. With creativity, innovation, and research, you can make a 20-year old Wrangler look good as new and out perform any new Jeep.
The list of modifications can go on and on. However, first time Jeep owners must check your wallet and the condition of your Jeep Wrangler before modifying it. You can get sucked down the modification money madness in no time at all. I'd also rather have a sound Jeep before I performed mods for the trail.
Every modification should increase your Jeep Wrangler's performance and look. Visit our other posts for more information on our Jeep TJ Wrangler buying guide here, Jeep gear and Jeep modification ideas for first-timers.
Best of Luck!!!